It’s been a few years since we’ve covered the topic of comment marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of date. There are clever, intentional ways to market yourself and your brand in the comments sections of sites, and there’s less competition now than ever before. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand details what you can do to get noticed in the comments and the benefits you’ll reap from high-quality contributions.
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about comment marketing. We talked about this actually five or six years ago, but it is time for a refresher because there are a lot of things that have happened in the world of online marketing, so this deserves a new take.
Comment marketing has not lost any of its power and influence. In fact, because fewer people are doing it today than were five or six years ago, especially in the digital marketing world, it’s actually become increasingly influential. There’s a limited number of blogs and communities in most sectors and spaces that have audiences that engage in the comments, but where they do, you find incredible levels of participation, of amplification, of opportunities for press and for links and for social following. I’ll show you how that works, and then I’ll talk about some tactics in terms of how to create great comments and a strategy to build around it.
How do comments help me/my site?
So, first off, why do comments help so much, and how do they help? Well, it turns out that if you leave great comments on other folks’ sites, they may lead to visits to your website through your profile, through links that you leave, through people clicking on your profile and then following that link, which can lead to links in future posts by the authors of the site where you commented or in future content pieces created by people who read that site.
If they see that your comment is particularly insightful, it brings up a great example, shows off a resource that is sorely lacking, especially when you are either leaving links or commenting about things, if you do so in a very respectful, diplomatic way. For example, one of the best strategies, best tactics I’ve seen for leaving a comment with a link in it is to say, “Hey, I want to make sure that this blog accepts links in the comments, but I figured I should point to X. Editor, feel free to remove if links are not appropriate.” So that way you’re saying, “Hey, I recognize that dropping a link in a comment could be a little sketchy.”
Or you could say something like, “We’ve actually been doing this on our site. If you go to our website, you can check out the link via my profile.” So you’re not even leaving it in there. You’re saying go check it out from there, then you can see this other thing that I want to show off in relation to the content here. But those can lead to great links to your site in the future.
Commenting can also lead to indirect links through exposure and exposure itself, meaning things like you leave consistent quality comments, people start to recognize you. You sort of see that profile picture again and you go, “I know that brand from somewhere or I know that person from somewhere. I have some positive association with them adding value.” That can lead to a better chance of engagement with you, your personal brand, or your corporate brand in the future, which can mean a better chance of future conversion.
It can also lead to social following growth. So you have lots of great comments. People will check out your social profile from your profile in those comments, and that can often lead to follower growth. You can, of course, juice this a little bit by choosing rather than linking to your personal site if you so choose, you could link directly to the social account that you are trying to promote or grow followership with.
So if you say, “Hey, I’m trying to grow my Facebook page. I’m going to make my Facebook page my profile link in here.” That works just fine. That can grow your Facebook audience. That may be how you’re best reaching your audience. Or it could be you’re doing it on your website or through Twitter or Instagram or another way. But all of these things basically follow the same format. People see those comments. If they’re engaging and they draw them in, it can lead to very good results.
What makes a comment great?
Basically, every single one of these start with you must leave consistent, high-quality, great comments. Greatness in a comment means a few things.
I. It’s gotta be on-topic
Meaning that while you may have lots of very interesting things to share, if you go off topic, you will, even if you provide great value, tick off the moderators of the community. You will often turn off a lot of folks who are reading those comments. It’s just not what people are there for. So you’ve got to keep it on-topic.
II. Respectful to the author and other commenters.
I say respectful because what I don’t mean is you can’t disagree. In fact, I think it is great to say, “Hey, I really love this post. I think you made some great points, but point number three and four that you made here or this one and that one, I disagree with and here’s why. This is my experience or I have this data or I conducted this survey or I want to show you this information, go check it out over here.” That is just fine. As long as you are respectful and kind, I think you’re in a great position to disagree and to add value. Disagreement actually does add a lot of value.
III. Provides unique value
Speaking of value, we are trying to provide unique value here. We want to provide unique value through our comments. When I say unique value, what I mean is you can’t just say things that were already in the post itself, things that have already been mentioned in other comments, or things that are sort of common knowledge, anyone could find them out or they’re instantly recognizable, they’re sort of already known.
We want insight or tactics, help, context, examples, data, whatever it is that is not found in the original piece or through common knowledge. That’s what makes a comment truly stand out. That’s what makes people vote up a comment, click on the profile, go check this person out. They seem really smart and intelligent and helpful.
There are a few other items. We want to be well-written — so grammar, spelling, language issues.
So you should use spacing and paragraphs, bullet points if they’re available in the markup effectively to try and convey your point so that it doesn’t just look like a bunch of jammed together words and sentences. If you have a very long run-on paragraph in a comment, it can turn people off from even starting to read that.
Finally — this is important — transparent. So you should not try and pull the wool over people’s eyes in a comment. We want to not hide our intent or our associations. Even if you are doing comment marketing specifically as a commenting strategy to try and attract people, you can be totally up front about that.
You can say, “Hey, full disclosure, I work for company X, and I wrote this piece, but I think it’s relevant and helpful enough that I want to bring it up here. So, with permission, hopefully I’m linking to it. Editor, feel free to remove this link if it’s not appropriate. Here’s why I’m linking to it and here’s what the value is that it provides.” Now you’ve been transparent about your intentions and motivations, your associations, what you’re doing. You will get a lot more both forgiveness and leeway to leave comments that are valuable if you do that.
Building a comment marketing strategy
Final thing, if you’ve decided, based on the couple things we’ve talked about here, that comment marketing is something you want to try and engage in 2017, or for the future, I would urge you to build a true strategy around it, not just tactically say, “Well, maybe a couple of times I’ll leave a few comments.”
That’s fine too, but you can get the most benefit from this strategy if you truly invest in it by following a process like this:
A. Determine the goals you want to get out.
So maybe that’s build exposure to get links. Maybe that’s to grow a social audience. Maybe it’s to try and get influencers to engage with you so that they become brand proponents for you in the future.
B. Create measurements
You want to build some measurement around that. Comment marketing is tough to measure, very, very tough to measure because you can’t see how many people saw your comment. You only see the results of it. But you can look at traffic and visits that are referred to your site from the site on which you left the comments. You can look at growth in your social following. You could look at new links from sites in which you engage with in comment marketing, those kinds of things.
C. Identify list of sites/communities for engagement
Then you should identify a list of the sites or communities that you want to engage with. Those sites and communities, it is best if you don’t say, “Hey, I’m going to try and leave one comment this year on each of 200 communities.” Not valuable. Pick the top 10. Choose to leave 15 to 20 comments on each of them. You want to build up a reputation in these communities. You want that consistency so that people who are in those comments and the authors of them, the influencers who write them, consistently see you in there and build a positive association with you.
Then you want to do some research. I’m urging you not to comment the first few times you read through it. Go through the backlog, look through their archives. Read and see what other people have commented on, see what other people have enjoyed and appreciated, see what comments do well and get noticed, see what the community is like.
E. Create and alert system when new content is published
Then create some sort of an alert system. This could be subscribing to updates via email or using RSS or if you follow them on Twitter and you get pinged every time they launch a new post, whatever it is, because early comments tend to do best. Right when a post is published, if you can comment in the first, let’s say, 30 minutes to 3 hours, that’s the best opportunity you’re going to have to be seen by the most people reading that post.
F. Use social to help amplify/spread your comments
Finally, I would urge you to use social media, especially Twitter because that’s where most publishers are, to amplify and spread your comments, meaning you go leave a comment and it’s really high-quality, then tweet, “Hey, I just left a comment on @randfish’s post here about blah, blah, blah.” Now I’m probably going to see that via Twitter, even if I don’t see it via my comment alert that I get through email, and I’m going to know, hey, this person is not only promoting their comment, they’re also promoting my post. That’s great. Now that builds further engagement with the people you’re trying to reach.
All right, everyone. Hope you give this comment marketing strategy a spin. If you have other tips, things you’ve seen be successful, feel free to leave a great comment in the comments down below, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.